Steelcase is a global design and thought leader in the world of work, providing innovative furnishings and solutions to help people do their best work. With a presence in the United States and internationally, the company operates through its Americas, EMEA, and Other segments, offering a wide range of furniture systems, seating, storage, desks, benches, tables, and complementary products.
When it comes to sustainability, Steelcase is committed to lowering greenhouse gasses emitted in the creation of its products. The company has set ambitious 1.5-degree C-aligned targets, approved by the Science-Based Targets initiative, to be achieved by 2030. To drive and monitor progress toward these goals, Steelcase has established an internal carbon core team, including an executive oversight committee, and engages key suppliers to set their own science-based targets.
In 2014, Steelcase joined RE100, making a commitment to source a 100% renewable energy equivalent to its total global electric power consumption. This long-term commitment made Steelcase the 15th largest 100% renewable energy purchaser in the United States according to the U.S. EPA’s Green Power Partnership. Since 2014 the company’s method has been to purchase renewable energy credits (RECs) from a portfolio that includes newer projects and non-emitting sources like wind and hydroelectric energy in North America and Europe. This is what helps them cover 100% of its global electricity consumption. In 2016 Steelcase added direct investment in new offsite generation to their renewable energy procurement strategy by announcing a 12-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Apex Clean Energy for 25 MW of wind power. At the time, this investment made up nearly half of Steelcase’s renewable energy purchases, directly supporting the construction of a new clean energy facility set to begin operations in 2016 and further diversifying the company’s renewable energy portfolio.
In 2020, Steelcase strengthened its commitment to annually finance verified carbon offset projects and purchase a 100% renewable energy equivalent to its scope 1 and 2 emissions, making it the first in its industry to become operationally carbon neutral.
“Our commitment to renewable energy is reflective of our passion for innovation and the environment. We’re helping grow an industry that will ultimately benefit the entire world,” said Jim Keane, former President and CEO of Steelcase Inc in 2014. “But as a reflection of our company values, we maintain a sense of urgency in limiting our use of fossil fuels. Steelcase remains focused on identifying innovative ways to build the energy efficiency of our operations, to reduce the embodied energy of our products, and to help our customers optimize their own real estate and energy use.”
Even after leaving his role in late 2021 as CEO, Keane noted that “in addition to our corporate and social investments, Steelcase remains committed to actions that protect the environment. Many of our environmental initiatives began with passionate employees who saw opportunities to make a difference. A few examples include: strengthening our 100% renewable energy portfolio, expanding our end-of-use services and diverting tons of furniture from landfills, and reducing water use and waste even as global production expanded.
Mary Ellen Mika, Steelcase’s Director of Sustainability, recently added that “sustainability is not a trend at Steelcase, it’s a trait. We’re building on our history of sustainability leadership, paving the way for more innovation to support a healthy climate while working to reduce our own carbon emissions.” This "theory of change" is embedded in the Steelcase culture and used to foster sustainable innovation from within, directly from their employees, and from their supplier partners according to Kim Dabbs, Global VP, ESG & Social Innovation for Steelcase.
As an example, as early as 2014 when Steelcase began using RECs as a way to mitigate their scope 2 emissions, the idea to help partners buy RECs bubbled up from the field, during regular business conversations, said John DeAngelis, the company’s former leader of Global Sustainability Initiatives, now at Meta. "I noticed a trend among suppliers: either they didn’t know much about credits or what they could do with them, or if they did know, they didn't have a partner that they knew about," he said. "And usually cost was also another issue."
Its efforts like this that have led to Steelecase being recognized on the 2021 CDP Supplier Engagement Leaderboard and as one of the top companies with the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Climate Challenge. "We're delighted to be recognized both nationally and internationally for the work we've done and progress we continue to make," said Mika recently. "While there's much more to accomplish, hitting these milestones energizes us as we keep to our commitment to limit the impact of climate change through sustainable practices across our business." The accolades continued in 2023 as Steelcase picked up another award recognizing it for its sustainable efforts. EcoVadis, a provider of business sustainability ratings, awarded the company with a Gold rating. This is the third consecutive year Steelcase has won the award.
“This positive feedback from EcoVadis inspires us as we continue to work on reaching our 2030 reduction targets and accomplish more for the wellbeing of people and the planet,” added Dabbs. “We’re making great strides as we begin to invest in onsite renewable energy and engage our global supply chain to set equally ambitious carbon reduction targets.”
The Potential Impact of RECs with Additionality
While Steelcase has made significant progress in sourcing 100% renewable electricity, the company could further improve its impact by including RECs with additionality in its strategy. RECs with additionality could have a positive impact on:
1. Increasing the speed at which the grid can change to renewable energy.
2. Mitigating costs over time associated with continued renewable energy procurement using RECs without additionality.
3. Enhancing the company's ability to make a more impactful marketing claim for sustainability purposes.
4. Providing scale to their emission reduction strategies needed to cover increased consumption of megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity as their business continues to grow.
5. Offering a new way to support suppliers with buying more impactful RECs.
By incorporating RECs with additionality, Steelcase can further demonstrate its commitment to sustainability and continue to lead the industry in reducing its environmental impact.